A GUIDED PRAYER ON THE ACT OF MERCY "FEED THE HUNGRY"
I pause from my daily routine and sit comfortably whilst I focus on the sounds I hear around me.... children playing in the distance, a dog barking, the neighbour’s radio blasting out music in the background. I listen passively to all these sounds and slowly shift my focus inwards, contrasting all this noise to the silence within me. I rest in this silence and, when ready, I think about what I am to do.... reflect on the hungry in our midst and what I am doing or not doing for them.
I pray to God to give me His light and understanding so that I recognise who the hungry in my life are and so that I look at them lovingly. I pray that I gain new insight on how I deal with those who are hungry and on what I could do for them if I were to see them anew with God’s eyes.
i. Luke 16:19-31
ii. After reading the above text a couple of times, I start focusing on the figure of Lazarus and reflect on who is Lazarus in my life today. I probably do not know anyone who lives in such deep misery as the Lazarus of the parable did. After all we live in an affluent society. We do not have people dying of hunger in our streets, starving with no-one to take care of them.
But how abject does my neighbour’s poverty have to be before I lift a finger to help him? Perhaps I know of a single mother, always buying the cheapest stuff, grabbing all supermarket offers for cheap, unhealthy food, trying to make ends meet by giving her children suboptimal food because that is what she can afford. Meanwhile, I regularly clean out my fridge, throwing out expensive food items because they expired before I found the time to cook them; because I couldn’t be bothered to plan properly. So I throw food away and Lazarus dreams of what is in my fridge, and of the treats he would like to give his children but cannot.
iii. Or perhaps the hunger I see around me isn’t physical. Perhaps for me Lazarus is the old woman who lives across the street from me. The nosey one, who is always on her doorstep, always asking what I am up to as I try to hurry by because I am too busy to stop and chat with her and anyway, what I am up to is none of her business. Until one day she corners me, taking me by surprise before I have the time to invent an excuse why I have to rush off. And as we talk I realise that her problem isn’t nosiness but a hunger for companionship. And I see how much I am being the rich man to her Lazarus.
iv. Lazarus is also the victim of structural sin, a victim of the increasing inequality gap between the rich and the poor. I see Lazarus in the poor who are getting poorer, in our country, but more so in the victims of famine, mismanagement and graft in sub Saharan Africa; their regular plight made worse by man-made climate change and by escalating food prices. And I think of the time I waste on my own selfish pursuits rather than lobbying against the inequalities of this world and trying to understand the complex underlying causes. I think about what I spend my excess income on rather than donating at least a portion of it to help those who do not know where their next meal is coming from.
Or perhaps for me Lazarus is someone else. I look at my life and think about who Lazarus is for me.
v. I remember those times when I did do something for the Lazarus in my life, when I felt God’s grace working through me, however imperfectly. For these moments I thank God. I also remember the times when I turned my back, when I refused to see Lazarus and feel his hunger, when my life was too full of the things Lazarus was hungering for, but I refused to see. I pray for forgiveness and ask God to help me to see more, to be more open to Lazarus’ needs in the future.
I speak to Jesus directly, as to a friend who is sitting next to me, sharing with Him all that I have thought about and about what I felt as I was reflecting. I pause and listen.
I finish by saying slowly and prayerfully the Our Father.